As a Venezuelan and devoted food lover, I can proudly say that my country’s gastronomy is pretty delicious and diverse— modesty aside.
So, if you want to add new dishes to your menu of delicacies, here are 21 yummy Venezuelan foods and recipes you must try!
Venezuelan cuisine is the resulting mixture of cultures from Europe, Africa, and native Latin American populations. And that is what makes it so good: it is an exquisite fusion of flavors to please all tastes. This list will take you on a trip to Venezuela in every dish. From appetizers and snacks to desserts and drinks. Put on your alpargatas, and let’s get started:
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1. Venezuelan Arepas
Arepas are the most iconic dish in Venezuelan gastronomy. They are like flatbreads or cakes made with maize flour that you can fill with almost anything you can imagine. Fill them with cheese, shredded beef, chicken, pulled pork, tuna, scrambled eggs, beans, ham, you name it. The best thing about arepas is their versatility.
They are great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you could even serve them as an appetizer— usually accompanied with nata. What’s more, you can cook them grilled or fried. Arepas are filling, easy to prepare, and simply delightful. Besides, since you can eat them with virtually anything, you will never get bored of them!
Cachapas are another Venezuelan culinary gem that works great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are sweet, soft, and hearty pancakes made out of a thick batter of fresh corn. Generally, cachapas are served folded in half and filled with cheese— especially Venezuelan queso de mano. However, you can eat them with many other options, including chicharrón, shredded beef, chicken, pork, or ham. Just add a bit of butter on top of your cachapa and get ready to have some Venezuelan deliciousness at every bite.
3. Pabellón Criollo
Pabellón criollo is Venezuela’s national dish. It is a colorful and flavorsome combination of white rice, shredded beef, black beans, and fried ripe plantains (tajadas). And, as if that wasn’t enough, you can add avocado slices, a fried egg, or shredded cheese to get a more filling dish. Plus, some people even sugar the beans to put on an extra layer of sweetness. Nevertheless, that last one can start an intense debate among some Venezuelans. We don’t need to go there. Pabellón is a pretty rich main course that will make your mouth water in seconds. Yet, it might take some time to prepare it, but I promise you it is 100% worth it.
Venezuelan chicha is a creamy, sweet, and refreshing drink made from rice and milk. Traditionally, it is topped with cinnamon and condensed milk, but in recent years it has become popular to add other ingredients, such as chocolate chips, cookies, and syrups.
In Venezuela, it is frequent to find stalls and ambulant sellers of chicha in the streets, called chicheros.
Especially at school entrances, squares, and markets. Since it is a thick drink, chicha works as a fulfilling and energizing snack. Seriously, there are few things as comforting as a glass of chicha full of ice after a long day of running errands under the sun.
5. Tequeños (Venezuelan Cheese Sticks)
Tequeños are an essential part of Venezuelan identity— no joke. They are the #1 finger food at any social event: weddings, birthdays, graduations, etc. You can’t have a party without tequeños. We love them. Simply put, tequeños are white cheese sticks wrapped in dough and then fried. And no, they are not like mozzarella sticks (please, never dare to say such a thing in front of a Venezuelan!). They are just at a higher level. To enjoy your tequeños a bit more, you can dip them in guasacaca or pink sauce (mayo + ketchup). Yet, they also go well with sweet dressings, like a tasty passion fruit sauce.
6. Polvorosa de Pollo (Venezuelan Chicken Pot Pie)
The polvorosa de pollo is simply the best chicken pot pie you will ever taste. The divine fusion of flavors, textures, and aromas is unparalleled. The filling of this pot pie is a rich shredded chicken stew with vegetables, raisins, and olives.
However, what distinguishes this dish the most is its crumbly, flaky crust. Polvorosa means “dusty” in Spanish, which accurately defines the soft and fragile texture of the dough. That unique crust creates a beautiful balance with the heavy and juicy filling inside. The polvorosa de pollo is a favorite among caraqueños (the people from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela), and it is truly a top-tier culinary experience.
7. Pan de Jamón (Ham Bread)
The name pan de jamón translates to “ham bread”, but it is much more than that. It is a semi-sweet rolled bread filled with smoked ham, raisins, and green olives— oh my, my mouth is watering already. Pan de jamón is a Christmas dish, and it is one of the most lip-smacking Venezuelan recipes of all time.
You would serve pan de jamón with hallacas, Ensalada de gallina (potato chicken salad), and pernil (pork shank) at the Christmas dinner. Yet, it also works great alone as an appetizer or breakfast.
8. Asado Negro
Originating in Caracas, asado negro is the perfect dish for a dinner party with your friends or family. It is a flavorsome and soft beef to fit any special occasion, mainly during the holiday season. Asado negro consists of a round steak simmered and prepared with spices, wine, sugar, and papelón (panela). The melted caramel gives the meat a distinctive dark tone and sweet taste that is to die for— all on top of its superior tenderness! The best meat cut for this recipe is eye of round roast, but you can also use bottom round roast. To accompany the asado negro, you can serve it with mashed potatoes or rice and fried plantain.
9. Refried Black Beans (Caraotas Refritas)
Caraotas refritas (refried black beans) are a nutritious, easy-to-make, and delectable vegetarian side dish. The trick is to remove some extra liquid from the beans and smash them gently to get a paste-like consistency. For this recipe, you can use canned beans to simplify the process. But, if you have the time, you could also cook dry black beans. Make sure you soak them overnight and then boil them for 1-2 hours until soft. Caraotas refritas go well with rice, pasta, or arepas. Additionally, they are a great vegetarian option for tacos.
Btw, if you want to make the best arepa filling ever, mix your caraotas with shredded white cheese and get ready to be blown away. In Venezuela, we call this combination dominó —because of its colors— and it sums up a tasty, fulfilling breakfast.
10. Venezuelan Potato Chicken Salad (Ensalada de Gallina)
The famous ensalada de gallina is another fundamental piece of the classic Venezuelan Christmas dinner. Nevertheless, you can enjoy it at any time of the year as a side dish or on its own with a slice of bread. This creamy salad contains potatoes, shredded chicken, carrots, green peas, green apples (optional), and mayo. It is a pretty versatile and complete meal that you can eat cold or at room temperature.
In Venezuela, we love sweet and savory combinations. Golfeados are a great example of that. Golfeados are sweet, sticky rolls with cheese that will bring a whole new world of sensations into your mouth. They look similar to cinnamon rolls but filled with papelón (sugar cane), semi-hard white cheese, and anise seeds.
Then, they are brushed with papelón syrup to give them a beautiful light brown color. To add the final touch, top the golfeados with shredded cheese or a fresh slice of queso de mano— trust me, it tastes like heaven. These yummy buns make a great snack or breakfast. Serve them warm with your favorite hot beverage, and enjoy!
A Venezuelan cachito is a soft, buttery, slightly sweet bread stuffed with smoky ham. It has a similar shape to a croissant, but the dough has a completely different texture. Cachitos are super easy to prepare, but you must be patient when making the bread to ensure you get the ideal fluffiness. Along with arepas and empanadas, cachitos are a traditional breakfast in Venezuela. You can find them in almost any bakery in the country from the earliest hours of the morning.
13. Tostones or Patacones
I believe I speak for every Venezuelan when I say we love plantains in all their presentations. Tostones or patacones are fried green plantains considered a staple in our gastronomy, especially in the Zulian region in northwestern Venezuela— more on this later. Tostones make the perfect side dish for fried fish or chicken, just to mention a couple of ideas. We usually add pink sauce, cheese, and/or coleslaw as toppings for them.
However, in the Zulian region, they call patacones a type of sandwich using fried plantain instead of bread. It is commonly sold as street food in many cities, mainly Maracaibo. To make a tasty patacón maracucho, fill two slices of fried green plantain with shredded beef or chicken, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese, ketchup, and mayo. It is a culinary paradise for plantain lovers.
14. Venezuelan Pepito Sandwich
A country’s street food is the quickest glimpse you can get of its local culture. In Venezuela, the quintessential street food is the copious and mouth-watering pepito. The pepito is a sandwich with beef, chicken, or pork (or a mixture of these meats), loaded with many vegetables, garnishes, and sauces inside a soft baguette— or Venezuelan pan canilla.
It is a popular dish among fast food vendors in Venezuelan cities, especially Barquisimeto and Caracas. Pepitos are a breeze to make, and you can add as many ingredients as you like. The most common add-ons include onions, sliced avocado, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, sauteed peppers, potato sticks, guasacaca, and many —seriously many— sauces.
15. Arroz con Coco (Coconut Rice)
Arroz con coco is a traditional dessert in many Latin American countries. It is a close cousin to the also-delightful arroz con leche. In Venezuela, we generally eat arroz con coco during the Holy Week. It is a significant recipe for us with years of tradition behind it. You can serve arroz con coco cold or hot, with sprinkled cinnamon and coconut flakes.
16. Quesillo (Venezuelan Flan)
Quesillo is, perhaps, the best Venezuelan dessert— or at least it is a strong competitor. It is so creamy that you could almost feel it melting in your mouth after every bite! The Venezuelan quesillo is quite similar to Spanish flan de huevo, and it basically uses the same ingredients (eggs, milk, condensed milk, vanilla, and sugar). We just add a bit of rum or brandy for an extra layer of flavor. Making quesillo is a cinch.
You only need to blend all the ingredients and then prepare a caramel to cover a flan pan to create a base. Once the caramel is dry, pour the mix into the pan and bake in Bain Marie. Ta-da! Easy peasy. Let it refrigerate for a couple of hours and serve it cold.
17. Bienmesabe (Venezuelan Coconut Cream Cake)
Bien me sabe translates to “tastes good to me”, and it sure does! The Venezuelan bienmesabe is a moist cake soaked in a rum syrup, layered with coconut cream, and topped with meringue. It is sweet and spongy, with a texture similar to the oh-so-delicious tres leches cake. If you are looking for an unforgettable dessert for your next dinner party, this may be your new favorite recipe. Just remember that bienmesabe is served cold, so you should let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. However, it tastes much better if you let it chill overnight, so plan the preparation with enough time in advance.
18. Tajadas (Fried Sweet Plantain Slices)
Tajadas are a favorite among Venezuelans. They are fried slices of ripe plantain and make the perfect companion for savory dishes, including the previously mentioned pabellón criollo. Unlike tostones, to make tajadas you need the plantain to be ripe. The riper, the better. That will ensure your tajadas come out sweet and soft— the way they should! Fried plantain goes well with almost anything. It is a quick and simple side dish that will instantly kick up your regular meals. You don’t need to add any condiments to fry the slices. Even so, you can sprinkle a bit of ground cinnamon to level up their sweetness or top them with shredded white cheese.
19. Cocada (Venezuelan Coconut Smoothie)
Cocada is one of the best cold drinks in Venezuelan gastronomy. It is a sweet and refreshing coconut smoothie that will help you recharge your batteries from the first sip. This creamy drink is quite common in the beach areas of Venezuela. Yet, you can also find cocada stands in the cities, just like chicha.
The recipe may vary depending on the region. Traditionally, cocada has fresh coconut pulp, coconut water, ice, and sugar. The process is quite simple: you blend all the ingredients until you get a thick and slushy consistency, and that’s it. However, some people add milk to increase its creaminess and thickness. You can use whole milk or your favorite vegetable milk for that. The final touch for a flavorful cocada is to add cinnamon and condensed milk to taste before serving. Yum!
20. Papelón con Limón/Aguapanela
Also known as aguapanela in other Latin American countries, papelón con limón is the ultimate summer drink. It is sweet, refreshing, and simply delightful. Papelón con limón is very easy to make and only requires three ingredients: water, lemon, and panela (sugar cane block). The only part that requires a bit of patience is dissolving the panela block in water. But beyond that, the process is super simple, and the result is delicious.
First of all, you should know this is no healthy snack, but God, it is so good! Mandocas are deep-fried rings made out of ripe plantain and cornmeal. They are another great invention from the Zulia state in Venezuela. Besides the delicious taste of the ripe plantain, the dough also has papelón syrup or brown sugar for more sweetness.
Think of mandocas as crunchy donuts with a soft texture on the inside. They make a fulfilling snack or breakfast, and they go great with a hot cup of coffee. Serve your mandocas hot with some butter and shredded white cheese on top, and enjoy!
Looking for more Venezuelan foods and recipes? I am convinced that food brings us together. And, for me, it means a lot to share a little piece of my home country with the rest of the world. Venezuelan food is exquisite and unquestionably varied. This brief list was just a quick glimpse of the great diversity of flavors and combinations that you can find in our gastronomy. If you were left wanting more, check other Venezuelan recipes here on my blog! Now, tell me, will you try any of the recipes on this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Owner and Food blogger on The Cookware Geek. She loves cooking, baking, traveling, playing with the cats, and knitting. She believes that eating delicious meals doesn’t require a culinary degree or a Michelin-star chef in your kitchen.